The competition between Qatar and Saudi Arabia about a regional hegemony is carried out under the hand but this competition about the regional supremacy is meanwhile not really carefully concealed and it currently looks like somebody else would be the actual leader of this competition between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However, maybe not for a long time, but Qatar apparently takes a step back into the twilight.
The new Emir Tamim has dismissed the former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani not only from its government offices, but also from the post as the Chief of the Qatari investment company Qatar Investment Authority.
The currently 37-year-old Ahmad Mohammed al-Sayed was appointed for his place. Ahmad Mohammed al-Sayed was so far a functionary in similar institutions – including the stock exchange of Qatar – and he is a real professional when it comes to investments and finances. In the politics, however, in contrast to Hamad, neither a lot of experiences nor, as it currently looks, much ambitions.
So, the new Emir of Qatar begins to separate the business from the politics. The mix of both seems to have become too expensive and also too dangerous.
The initial strategy of the “old” Emir Hamad was that Qatar essentially earns money with the natural gas exports – this strategy was coordinated by Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, who sat on the LPG technology (Liquefied petroleum gas), – and the funds, which were obtained from this source, have been invested worldwide by Qatar.
These investments were under the direction of the Qatar Investment Authority, i.e. under Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani. Beautiful things like the “The Shard” in London are the results of this.
This nice and for Qatar also perfectly logical strategy for survival and success was largely destroyed by the shale gas boom in the United States. Thus, Qatar was forced to deliver its natural gas to already split markets, primarily to the European market.
This is now in turn the main motivation for the financing of large parts of the “Arab Spring” by Qatar.
However, it seems currently that the failure of this policy is acknowledged and that Qatar now thinks to tackle the economic problems also with economic means in the first place. Therefore, the new leadership at the QIA: Ahmad Mohammed al-Sayed is not the man who runs an own independent policy.
In Qatar, the second most important person due to his relevance and influence gets replaced by a good manager who, however, has no political weight. The Investment Authority will now probably promote the interests of the gas industry of Qatar, instead of being an instrument for placing the over-profit of the Emirate somewhere prominent.
They will probably not get rid of various image projects such as the Soccer World Cup 2022 by these changes, but probably is Qatar as the mega-sponsor of sparkling and beautiful things no more on offer.
The war in Syria gets in such a case rather into such an “image project” for Qatar, which they will probably try to pass it as much as possible on the Saud (Saudi Arabia), even if it will mean a loss of the face for Qatar.
This does not mean that Qatar will stop its support for the “rebels”, but after the giving up of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar has virtually no more instruments in the region by which they would still be able to carry out political activities.
The approach to breed a new “tool” is long and expensive. Qatar thus embarks onto the substitutes bench in terms of the regional policy. Of course, it certainly can be reactivated fast, but for the time being, the others are allowed to run the games in the region. This current recession in turn suggests that Qatar shall take a large role in the longer-term perspective in the Middle East, a much too large role than to burn its potential now.
The coup d’état (overthrow) in Egypt looks in this context as a symptom of what was happening elsewhere. The trend and direction to a military coup started about the beginning of May when the youth movement “Tamarod” began loudly to tell of themselves – however, this youth movement mainly includes selected and “tested” cadres of the Kifaya movement, which is behind the “Tahrir” of 2011. Also in May, several American emissaries in Qatar were active to discuss the deadlines and formalities of the handover of the power to Tamim.
The Egyptian military was probably the best in the picture about what the emir will do as his first steps, and they were exactly ready for the overthrow when Mursi (Morsi) was presented with fait accompli, namely, that Qatar will henceforth deny its support for him. For himself and for the Egyptian “brothers” that was certainly nothing new in this moment, because also around the May, there are, if not open divisions, however, some unrest among them.
A part of the leadership joined other political movements, even if “friendly” other movements, so that the Muslim Brotherhood were actually, at the moment of the overthrow, as a political movement no longer one. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, presumably neutralized by Qatar, disappeared, especially since it is so far not quite clear whom he would have to support now in terms of ideology. His last action was then the call to all Egyptians to throw themselves in a martyr-style in front of the tanks of the Egyptian army and to protect Mursi (Morsi) against the military.
The Egyptian military has now, more than just likely, matched its actions with Saudi Arabia. This is underlined by the almost immediate recognition of the junta by Saudi Arabia as well as by the jointly with the UAE offered sum of $ 5 billion dollar emergency aid for the Egyptian transitional government. This testified: the Muslim Brothers are passé, and indeed, for a long time.
The thing is that the Muslim Brotherhood is banned as an organization in the UAE, due that they are, probably rightly, under a general suspicion in terms of a coup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For that reason alone, the willingness of the UAE testifies the certain opinion that the “era” of the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) in Egypt is over.
Whatever could it mean for Syria (also Saudi Arabia has the “Syrian opposition” now on its legs and it is everything else but really enthusiastic about their acts), Egypt now moves on to the foremost positions in the Middle East regional policy.
Syria is important, but the tenacity of Assad in the defence of his country forces the Arab monarchs to find other points where they are able to exert their influence and expand from there. Egypt, that became quite “ripe” in two and a half years of “democracy”, is in this respect a quite passable playing field.
It would still be wrong to write off Qatar, even with reservations. It is not unlikely that the grouping around Tamim, Mozah and al-Attiyah has some interesting information about the internal states of Saudi Arabia that forces them to firstly disappear in the shadow and to allow the Kingdom the opportunity to clean up the field for future major projects. As soon as there are less pleasant conditions in the leadership of the Kingdom, as it is to predict, they will come back to the surface in one way or another.